Aggies set to battle SJS Spartans
Utah State head coach Gary Andersen knows the Aggies will need to bounce back from last Friday’s loss to BYU if they are going to have a shot to win on the road against San Jose State on Saturday.
But as the Aggies face the current WAC and future MWC foe in their conference opener, they will do so with the security in knowing their coach will be sticking around for a long time.
Andersen, now in his fourth season at Utah State, signed a contract extension which will keep him at Utah State through the 2018 season and pay up to $765,000 with incentives.
“First of all, it’s a great honor for me,” Andersen said. “It’s a great position for my family. The biggest key in college football is having stability for years. This is where I want to be, this is where I love to be.”
Now all Andersen needs to get his top-ranked defense to stop the Spartan passing attack.
“If you look back the last two years, our game against San Jose State has been a struggle to say the least,” Andersen said. “I don’t expect anything different this year.”
The Spartans are led by junior quarterback David Fales, who averages 280 yards per game and has nine touchdowns, three of which came during the fourth quarter in SJSU’s road win over San Diego State on Sept. 22.
Andersen said the transfer from Monterey Peninsula College fits into the Spartan offense well.
“He throws to the spots and relies on the receivers to get there often times before they get out of their breaks,” Andersen said. “He has done a nice job and he is a good quarterback. He carries himself with a good physical presence out there, he can run the ball enough to get himself out of problems if he needs to.”
Fales has targeted a variety of receivers, four of whom have more than 220 yards this season. This includes junior wideout Noel Grigsby, who has nearly 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Aggie senior cornerback Terrence Alston, who is from the Bay Area not far from the San Jose State campus, said he and the other USU defensive backs have their work cut out for them.
“They are good off the line, good at route running,” Alston said of the Spartan receivers. “Grigsby, he is more shifty and quicker. We just have to do our job, settle down and do the best we can.”
Andersen said he is impressed with the way San Jose State plays offense, especially in the passing game.
“Throw game is number one for me that we’ve got to be able to take control of,” Andersen said. “They’re going to complete passes and we’ve got to tackle well when they complete passes. Then we’ve got to find a way to get the quarterback a little bit distracted.”
Last week, the Aggie defense held BYU to six offensive points in the three-point loss, keeping them among the top defenses nationally. The Aggies have outscored opponents 54-0 in the first quarter and 88-22 in the first half during games this season.
USU linebacker Kyler Fackrell was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance at BYU, in which he had 10 tackles and an interception.
Alston said he was happy for his teammate to be recognized.
“He’s a guy who has come a long way since I have been here and got his first pick last week,” Alston said. “We all just congratulated him on the sideline. It was a big play, a play that we needed and he just made it happen. All year he’s been fighting and getting better every week.”
Offensively, Utah State will need to move the ball better than they did in Provo to have a chance at victory in California. The Aggies had a season-low 24 rushing attempts for 41 yards against the Cougars.
“I feel if we would have executed against BYU things would have came our way,” Aggie senior wide receiver Matt Austin said. “We just had a few drops and a couple missed opportunities. That happens, that always happens in games. We knew it was going to go down to the wire with those guys. It just didn’t come out on our side.”
Austin finished with a team-high seven receptions for 72 yards after not recording a catch during the game against UNLV on Sept. 29.
Utah State is 1-2 in road games this season, but have lost those matchups — the only two losses this season — by a combined total of five points. Austin said those losses will always be in the back of his mind, but knows they carry little weight with Andersen’s overall goal this season.
“We always break our huddle since day one with ‘WAC Champs,’” Austin said. “That has always been our goal and then to get to a bowl game after that.”
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